TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) coordinator, Merah Johansyah Ismail, on Friday urged law enforcers to investigate the death of Sangihe Islands Deputy Regent, Helmud Hontong, who suddenly died aboard a Bali-Makassar commercial flight on June 9.
Ismail argued that Hontong’s death was suspicious. Prior to his death, the deputy regent persisted against extending the mining permits of gold mining firm PT TMS - which its capital is owned by a Canadian investor.
The Deputy Regent had rejected extending the gold mine’s permit since his appointment into office in 2017.
“We hope it can be investigated and find the root cause of his sudden death. A number of sources suggested that he was not ill but suddenly the news [of his death] arrived,” said the Jatam coordinator to Tempo on Friday, June 11.
It was also known that Helmud's rejection had grown even stronger and that he sent a letter to the Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) Minister Arifin Tasrif on April 28, 2021. In a copy of the letter Tempo obtained, Helmud requested the ESDM minister to reconsider revoking the 42 hectare operation lease contract of PT TMS.
The mining permit of the gold mine is stated in the ESDM Ministry No. 163 K/MB.04/DJB/2021 issued on January 29, 2021.
Helmud Hontong believed the mining permit goes against Law No.1 (2014) on changes of Law No.27 (2007) overseeing coastal zones and small islands management. He said that the government should not have issued the mining permit at the 73,698 hectares Sangihe Island that is prone to mining activities.
The Jatam coordinator feared that the mining activities in the coastal region can negatively impact the livelihood of local residents due to damages sustained by the environment, mangrove communities, coral reefs, and marine life. The control of the mining area is also feared to partially and entirely topple the areas owned by the local residents, who could potentially face eviction from their own land in the future.
Tempo contacted ESDM Minister Arifin Tasrif regarding Helmud Hontong’s letter but has yet to receive any responses.
Apart from urging a police investigation on the deputy regent’s death, Merah Johansyah also urged the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry to reconsider its decision to extend the gold mine’s investment permit.
“Bangka island once had a similar case with a Chinese investor for iron ore. The issue reached the Supreme Court (MA) and the people won the lawsuit which is why jurisprudence of this law must not be ignored by the ESDM Minister,” said Johansyah.
FRANCISCA CHRISTY ROSANA